Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Vancouver USA Marathon Review

June 19, 2016:

This marathon is in the USA!  It's a lovely marathon, and I would do it again without reservation.  I especially appreciated the 7-hour time limit for marathoners, and the five-hour limit for half-marathoners.

My race:

My 97th marathon is in the books!  I finished in 6:53:44, just six minutes under the time limit and fourth of four in my age group, but I'm a happy man.  It's also just 13 minutes over my time for the next-most-recent marathon in Fargo, and I have plenty of excuses for the difference.

First, I was concerned about my right knee after the Fargo Marathon, and saw the sports doc, who wasn't sure if it was a slight fracture of the tibia or a tear in the meniscus. Neither is good.   He suggested that I stop training for the three remaining weeks leading up to this marathon, and I did that.  So my muscles weren't quite as well-prepared as they otherwise might have been.

Second, the weather was a bit warmer than I like it.  I started pouring water on my head (at aid stations) somewhere around the half-marathon mark.  Our rental car showed a temperature in the 80's after my finish, though I think the real temperature was probably in the high 70's.

Third and more  important, I had pain in both hips that did actually slow me down.  More about that in the "Whining" section below.


Fourth, possibly most significant, I will call the "heart issue," also detailed under "Whining."

Sometimes in a marathon I find someone going just my speed who likes to talk.  Not so in this race.  Mostly it was a solitary event, with a few exuberant supporters along the way, but not too many.  There were always a few other runners in view, either ahead of me or behind, but none to talk to.  No fault of the race - it seemed like everyone but me was wearing headphones, which I take as a message that they don't want to talk.  I don't wear them - I like to say that I'm pretty good company for myself.


This is where I detail the pains and possible injuries, real or imagined, for my record.  This is my log - I don't have any other record, and sometimes I do look back to see what has happened in the past.  I invite you to skip this part if you like.
  • The "Heart Issue."  Three times along the way, starting early in the race, I felt a heaviness in the middle of my chest, accompanied by an ache going down both arms.  It happened only when going uphill, and it went away when I slowed down or reached the top.   In fact it seemed like a pretty clear message this I should slow down.  I have no idea if this really is a heart issue, but will see my primary doc next week.  The problem disappeared in the later miles, even though those miles were hillier.  I should have noted my heart rate when it happened, but didn't.
  • The right knee: I was disappointed to feel some complaint from the right knee at 5 ½ miles.  I took a naproxen sodium liquid gel right away, and the knee pain disappeared within a mile or two, never to reappear in this race.  Now I don't know what to think about it.  I will get back in to see the sports doc next week.  He talked about an MRI - maybe it's time.  We didn't learn much in this race.
  • The left hip started to complain somewhere around the halfway point.  Sometimes in the past I have irritated a bursa by turning my body part way around to look behind me, and I think that may have happened.  It doesn't recover during the run or race, and then takes a day or two to recover after stopping, so we'll see.  I'm writing this on the plane the day after the marathon, coming home from Vancouver, and it still hurts if I press on it.
  • The right hip, not to be outdone, began to holler too, somewhere around mile 18 I think.  I suspect BOTH a problem with the ITB (I haven't been regular with my stretches), and a bursa on that side.  This actually became the worst pain in the later miles, slowing me a little.  A second naproxen capsule didn't seem to help.  Today it still hurts a little if I press on it, just like the left.
  • Otherwise just the normal tired muscles.  I understand aching calves and thighs, but why do my upper arms feel overused today?  I didn't walk on my hands!  Oh well, it's all part of the experience of running a marathon.
The Vancouver USA Marathon:

I loved the outdoor "Expo," with booths selling stuff that we never see at race expos.  The Expo, the start, and the finish are all in the same park in downtown Vancouver, and there is a farmers market on the other side of that park as well.  It seemed almost as if the race expo was an extension of the farmers' market.  We enjoyed downtown Vancouver WA.

The race itself is organized well.  Most of the way we didn't have to be concerned about vehicles, though there was a stretch between miles 10 & 13 (I think) where we were on the shoulder facing 55 mph vehicle traffic.  Furthermore, for most of that way there Is a perfectly good trail along the highway, on the other side, which in my opinion should be used instead of the road even though it might involve runners going both directions on the trail.  It's a wide trail - it would work.

The marathon and half marathon routes both included plenty of views of the mighty Columbia River, with its sailboats and ocean-going vessels.  Moreover, there are several good views of Mount Hood along the way.  We enjoyed a trip through Fort Vancouver, with its meticulously-maintained buildings, and finally over the Land Bridge, an artful pedestrian connection between the river and the fort.
Taken from a trail on the race course

One slip-up was the aid station at mile 23. When I got there it was completely abandoned.  The table was there, but no people, no water, no Gatorade, no cups except abundant used ones littering the ground.  We runners just kept going and found the next aid station at about mile 24.

As mentioned the temperature was a bit high, no fault of the race organizers of course.  When we asked our daughter what she liked best about the race, she replied "the shade!"  She's right - the half marathon course, which is also the second half of the marathon, has plenty of shade.  I especially liked the trails through the forest and along the Columbia.

All in all, I would happily do this marathon again.

Splits: 13:23, 13:03, 17:58 (major nature break), 14:19, 14:25, 15:54, 14:56, 11:59, 14:41, 15:07, 14:32, 14:55, 16:28, 15:17, 16:44, 31:58 (2 mi), 16:52, 16:31, 17:26, 34:00 (2 mi), 16:40, 16:46, 15:50, 20:12, 3:48 (0.22 mi), total 6:53:44.

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